If you’re hoping to go off-the-beaten track, you’ll be glad to know that there are plenty of places in Singapore that are considered under-the-radar even by locals. Check out these four neighbourhoods and visit their hidden gems for amazing sights, sounds and, of course, food!
The district of Holland Village, also known as Holland V, is named after Hugh Holland, who was one of the area's early residents and a well-respected architect.
Also part of this precinct is Chip Bee Gardens on Jalan Merah Saga, which is lined with semi-detached and terrace houses that were once homes to members of the British army in the 1950s, when the country was under colonial rule.
Today, Holland V and the neighbouring Chip Bee Gardens is mainly known for its F&B outlets, including ramen specialists Sanpoutei, Mediterranean-vegetarian restaurant Original Sin, and late-night sweet spot 2am:dessertbar. The vibrant watering holes are a hit with locals as well; there’s bar/restaurant Drinks & Co Kitchen, Germanic pub Baden and live music venue Wala Wala, so take your pick.
One of the oldest housing estates in Singapore, Queenstown—which was once an agricultural zone—is actually named after Queen Elizabeth II. The royal figure was Singapore's head of state until the nation gained its independence.
Now a heartland area, Queenstown boasts several not-to-be-missed features, including Queenstown Public Library (which preserved a slice of history as Singapore’s first public library) and Queensway Shopping Centre, where affordable sporting goods from past seasons and collections of brands like Nike and Adidas abound.
Visitors to Queenstown can learn more about the neighbourhood’s colourful heritage with the quaint artefacts and exhibits on display at My Queenstown Museum, Singapore’s first-ever community museum.
Over in the nearby Wessex Estate, there are noteworthy sites as well. Check out art galleries like Joy Clay Studio & Gallery (it’s open by appointment only) for ceramic sculptures and installation art before dropping by Colbar—a charming cafe that boasts an old-school ambiance and a myriad of Western and Asian culinary delights.
Toa Payoh may seem like a typical heartland area at first, but look further and you'll find that it's steeped in rich history. The neighbourhood, which translates to "big swamp" in the Hokkien dialect, is the second oldest satellite town after Queenstown and is the site of many firsts: it was the first town to adopt the neighbourhood police post system, the first MRT station was built here, and is the home to the first mosque established under the Mosque Building Fund (MBF).
When you’re in the ’hood, drop by key venues like the aforementioned Masjid Muhajirin mosque, Toa Payoh Town Park for a spot of greenery, and the iconic Dragon Playground for a look at one of Singapore's most beloved landmarks.
If you’re feeling peckish, there are cafés and restaurants like waffle and ice cream joint Creamier and famous seafood dining spot Kelly Jie Seafood (formerly known as Mellben), where you can sample chilli crab, a classic local creation.
The shophouse-lined streets of this colourful district was once a simple track through a betel nut and fruit orchard, which was established in the 1830s by the Norris Brothers. Years later, the municipality decided to expand the road before aptly naming it Jalan Besar, which translates from Malay to "big road".
Now a conserved area, Jalan Besar is home to an eclectic stretch of eateries, cafés, entertainment venues, and religious sites. It’s also a hostel hotspot, and backpackers constantly flock here.
This is one of the best areas to go café-hopping, so check out hangouts like Butter Studio for its incredible baked goods and Chye Seng Huat Hardware for some potent coffee (or a cold brew on tap). Don’t miss other highlights like The General Company for artisanal products and handcrafted wares—they make for great souvenirs.
If you’re sticking around for dinner, hit up places such as The Refinery for Japanese kushiyaki (grilled skewered food) and bespoke cocktails, or if you want some local delights, make a beeline for Jalan Berseh Food Centre for orh luak (fried oyster omelette) and, for the adventurous, turtle soup.
Now that you’re equipped with the right knowledge, you’re all set and ready to go explore the secret side of Singapore! For more walking trails and neighbourhoods to visit, check out these guides.